Haste, lack of preparation curtail Kim-Trump summit

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/1 20:28:54

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho held a press conference on early Friday morning, refuting US President Donald Trump's claim that Pyongyang had demanded complete sanctions relief after the summit in Hanoi between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which failed to reach a deal.

Ri said North Korea asked only to lift five of the 11 sanctions under United Nations Security Council resolutions "that hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of our [North Korean] people in particular." In exchange, Pyongyang would "permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium in the presence of US experts and by the joint work of technicians from both countries." But the US asked for further denuclearization actions. 

According to US media reports, Washington believes that North Korea has been running uranium enrichment facilities in other facilities than Yongbyon, and that there is at least one other site called Kangson. The US asked to close all those facilities before easing sanctions. 

Washington and Pyongyang have both stuck to their guns. The reality is that neither was fully prepared for this summit, nor were they sure about what to ask one another during the meeting. Their calculations about how much the other side was prepared to compromise were wrong. 

But the two did not turn against each other. Both the US and North Korea are sticking to their own stances, yet their language is moderate. Their willingness to continue negotiations seems to be real and they both have hope for new progress in the future. 

Looking back at the two summits between Trump and Kim, as well as their interactions during the latest meeting, we believe failure is obviously not an objective word to describe the process. For the moment, the Korean Peninsula is more at peace than any other time since the end of the Korean War. North Korea no longer conducts nuclear and missile tests. The joint military exercises between the US and South Korea have become more moderate. Pyongyang and Washington have already stepped onto the path of resolving substantial problems in a phased manner. 

Pyongyang realizes that there won't be any breakthrough in lifting sanctions unless it takes real action to denuclearize. Washington is also aware that it cannot promote denuclearization any further unless it eases sanctions when Pyongyang is denuclearizing. The reason for the setback at the latest summit is not about the principle that they have to act simultaneously, but the huge divergences they have on the facts - when one side acts, how should the other side act in return? 

The Kim-Trump summits have established both leaders' personal understanding of each other. But the curtailed summit will have a negative influence - when divergences between North Korea and the US are huge, a summit between the two heads of states is not the answer. The personal relationship between Kim and Trump cannot replace national interests. 

The most important task for now is to prevent the overall reversal of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Otherwise, all parties that have benefited from the eased situation will suffer losses. It is difficult to get the peace process under control, but a return to chaos will only bring more risks and uncertainties. 

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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